Chiara Sità
University of Verona

To talk about equity, it is worth distinguishing this term from the term ‘equality’. The idea of equality as the guarantee of equal treatment runs the risk of not generating justice but rather of “treating unequal subjects equally”, an unfair outcome of an abstract idea of equality as asserted by Don Lorenzo Milani of the School of Barbiana (1967).
The concept of equity instead refers to the need to adopt criteria and methods that allow people to grow, participate as citizens in their social contexts and enjoy a set of possibilities for activation, choice, and self-determination. In essence, equity is a state that may be achieved when a person’s physical, social or cultural characteristics (gender, skills, social class, language, nationality, skin color, sexual orientation…) do not determine his/her status, access to rights and opportunities or quality of life in the society in which he/she lives.
In the field of education, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development defines equity through reference to two aspects: justice and inclusion, understood as closely interlinked. In school, what occurs in the classroom certainly impacts on equity, but educational alliances among educational institutions, families and the local community are equally important for achieving it (OECD, 2008).
A particularly significant concept for effectively connecting equity to education in the RE-SERVES project is equity literacy. It defines equity as an area of competencies that are continuously being constructed through a process involving not only professionals (educators, teachers, etc.) but also all the actors of educational practices. According to Gorsky (2016), the concept of equity literacy improves on other approaches commonly used to promote the inclusion and acceptance of diversity, such as cultural competence or diversity awareness. Indeed, the equity framework is more successful than these other frameworks in revealing the often subtle ways in which opportunities are unequally distributed on the basis of individuals’ characteristics and living environment. Through the interpretative key offered by equity literacy, educators can adopt an approach allied with the idea of social justice that involves the ability to recognize and address, in everyday life and using the tools of education, both the obvious and implicit ways in which access to education and opportunities are unequally distributed. An equity literacy perspective refines our tools for critically analyzing the practices and functioning of educational institutions and for bringing about organizational change, helping to redesign the institutional conditions that produce inequality and invisibility for certain individuals and social groups in the long term (Tarozzi, 2015; Derman-Sparks et al., 2015; Gorski, 2016).

Selected references

Derman-Sparks, L., Keenan, L., Nimmo, R. (2015). Leading anti-bias early childhood programs. Teachers’ College Press.

Gorski, P.C. (2016). Equity literacy: More than celebrating diversity. Diversity in Education, 11(1), 12–15.

OECD (2008). Ten Steps to Equity in Education. Policy brief January 2008.

Scuola di Barbiana (1967). Lettera a una professoressa. Libreria Editrice Fiorentina.

Tarozzi, M. (2015). Intercultura e educazione alla giustizia sociale. Franco Angeli.

How to cite this text:

Sità, C., (2020). Equity. In M. Milana & P. Perillo (Cur.) RE-SERVES project: Glossary. https://www.re-serves.it/